Tuesday is Valentine’s Day, which means we’ve been swimming in a sea of pink and red and hearts and roses for far too long now. Is it just me, or is the bombardment of Valentine’s-themed junk reaching an all-time high this year? Every day I keep seeing more nonsense for sale online and in the shops, mostly made out of chocolate or flowers.
This year, to celebrate all things romance, why not make something good to eat? I’ve got two recipes here that are completely non-conventional and yet totally sexy. After reading up on aphrodisiac foods, and after taking stock of the ingredients we had at home, the following soup and dessert were created on a whim and completely on the fly. I’m getting much more comfortable cooking without first consulting a recipe to adapt. The dessert in particular is a romantic one because it was a collaboration between my husband and I; he made up the cookies, I whipped up the cream, and a beautiful love cookie sandwich was born.
Forget the oysters and champagne. This year it’s all about truffle oil and cacao.
Truffles are a luxury and a joy. While I can’t say I’ve ever prepared a meal at home with fresh truffles, I certainly love to drizzle black truffle oil on special meals to finish them off. If you’re planning on cooking this Valentine’s Day, consider picking up a bottle of truffle oil to add another dimension to your meal. Apparently, they’re the most potent aphrodisiac for women because their musky scent mimics that of male pheromones. And your sexy truffle-scented food will be super impressive considering the fact that the most expensive truffle in history was sold for over $160,000! Of course, a small bottle of truffle-infused olive oil will cost quite a lot less, but just make sure you pick up the real thing (containing real truffles rather than just the scent). I used a black truffle oil to drizzle on this creamy carrot soup.
Cacao, of course, is the reason chocolate is always given as a romantic gift. The science behind the aphrodisiac properties lies in the raw cacao bean. It contains theobromine, which stimulates our pleasure-seeking neurotransmitters, much like caffeine. It also contains magnesium, a calming mineral and a hormone balancer. Sorry, but you’re not going to find this good stuff in a bag of M&Ms. Go for at least 70% cacao dark chocolate, or better yet, pick up some raw chocolate. Even better than that, make it yourself (3 ingredients: raw cacao butter, raw cacao powder, raw honey)!
Creamy Carrot & Thyme Soup
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 leek, trimmed and sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 lb carrots, peeled or washed and chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 quart vegetable stock, boiling
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 1/2 tsp truffle oil
In a large saucepan or pot, heat the olive oil over a medium heat and add the onions and leeks. Add a pinch of sea salt, and cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring and allowing the veggies to sweat and soften without burning. Add the garlic and carrots, and continue to cook for 5 more minutes.
Stir in the dried herbs and about 3/4 of the thyme (reserve the rest for garnish). Pour over the stock, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cover with a lid and leave to cook for at least 15 minutes, or until the carrots have softened.
Add the cashews and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and blend until smooth and creamy.
Serve with a drizzle of truffle oil and a sprinkle of thyme leaves.
Chocolate Orange Sandwich Cookies
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Ingredients (8 cookies)
For the Cookies
- 1 1/4 cups oats (gluten-free optional)
- 1/2 cup softened butter (goat’s optional)
- 1/3 cup raw coconut sugar
- Zest of 1 orange
- Juice of 1/2 orange
For the Chocolate Cream
- 1/2 cup cashews, soaked for at least 1 hour
- 1/2 cup macadamias, soaked for at least 1 hour
- 1 tbsp raw honey
- 1/4 tsp vanilla powder
- 2 tbsp raw cacao powder
For the Cookies
Preheat the oven to 350F
Blitz the oats in a food processor until it looks like flour. Add the butter and blitz to crumbs. It will then start to come together. At this point, add the sugar and orange zest and blitz again. Add juice as necessary to keep the mixture moist but stuck together. It gives a wetter mixture than usual, but that’s fine.
Roll out with more oats, or flour if necessary and cut into cookies. Bake for about 15-20 minutes. They should only be slightly brown when you take them out or they’ll be too hard.
Leave to cool completely before assembling.
For the Chocolate Cream
Drain and rinse the soaked cashews and macadamias.
Place all ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth and creamy. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides of the jug a couple of times in the process.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before assembling the cookies.
Note: this recipe will make far more cream than you need just for the cookies, so you’ll have lots left over for treats! Keep in an airtight container in the fridge up to a week.
Place a spoonful of cream on the back of the one of the cookies. Use another cookie to press the cream down into a sandwich. Devour!
Something I’m keen to address here on The Particular Kitchen is blood sugar. Hypoglycemia, a very low drop in our blood sugar levels, can influence us more than just physically. It brings on that manic state of hunger, our senses are heightened, our moods are all over the place, our head starts to spin. Believe me, imbalanced blood sugar levels are never a good thing.
In fact, they can be a potentially life-threatening issue. Your body is designed to get things back on track, but if you spend your life eating foods that will cause severe spikes and dips in your blood sugar, things can go from bad to worse. You could end up with type 2 diabetes or hypertension. Just another reason why eating a balanced diet as well as living a balanced life is so important!
How do you begin to balance your blood sugar levels?
This is something I’ve brought up with my detoxers, who are starting the program tomorrow! If you are trying to get over a sugar, caffeine, or alcohol craving, the best thing you can do is follow some of these crucial blood sugar-balancing steps:
- Breakfast. Having a healthy and balanced breakfast sets your glycemic balance for the entire day, so be sure to include protein and healthy fats into your morning meal (and don’t skip it!)
- Protein. Incorporating protein into every meal and snack can be challenging, especially if you are vegan or vegetarian. Try not to rely on animal protein sources only; legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, quinoa, and fermented soy, such as tempeh and miso, are all good quality plant-based sources.
- Healthy Fats. I can’t get enough of the stuff. When I don’t have a spoonful of ground flax on my morning smoothie or breakfast bowl, I feel… off. Failing that route, you can always add in some avocado, nuts, seeds, hemp, chia, or the freshest, wildest cold-water fish (salmon, mackerel, herring) you can find.
- Snacks. Yes I’m telling you to eat snacks. But not just anything! One that contains a protein, a healthy fat, and a complex carb. Eating a little something every 2-3 hours ensures you don’t end up at the extreme hunger stage (which inevitably leads to the sugar binge stage). Examples of good snacks? A handful of raw walnuts and an apple. A handful of celery sticks and some hummus. A brown rice cracker with some almond butter.
- Limited Carbs. Limit your carb intake, but not in an Atkins way. Have as many leafy and sulphurous vegetables as your heart desires. Chomp away on kale, broccoli, fennel, onions, spinach, asparagus, etc. Just limit the amount of starchy veggies and grains you’re having (whether they’re whole grains or made into pasta or baked goods). Two to three 1/2-cup servings should suffice for a day.
Carrot & Chickpea Soup
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Keywords: simmer soup/stew gluten-free soy-free sugar-free vegan vegetarian wheat free Spanish
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 1⁄4 cup olive oil
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 1lb carrots, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- 1 15-oz can organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1⁄4 cup flaked almonds, for garnish
- Handful fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onions. Cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes with a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper, until the onions are translucent and softened.
Meanwhile, toast the flaked almonds for a couple of minutes in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until lightly browned. Put to one side.
Add the garlic and carrots to the onions and cook for 5 minutes until softened slightly, then add the cumin, paprika, and parsley. Cook for 1 minute, until the spices are evenly distributed among the vegetables, then pour in the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and leave to cook for about 15 minutes.
Add the chickpeas and leave to cook with the lid on for another 10 minutes.
Either serve like this, with some flaked almonds and cilantro leaves on top, or transfer to a blender and puree until smooth before serving with the garnishes.
In other news…
- Buy my cookbook, A Wholesome New Year, packed with recipes to inspire a healthy 2012!
- I’m teaching an afternoon of Allergy-Friendly cooking at The Avenue Cookery School in Putney. There are currently 12 spaces left, so book your place with me today by emailing me. It takes place on Thursday 26th January from 11am-2pm.
- Missed out on joining the Renewal Detox, which kicks off tomorrow? No worries! I’ll be running seasonal detoxes from here on out. The next one starts on April 14th, so more information will be coming in the spring about that one!
- The free Healthy Food Series continues at Nourish Health Foods in East Sheen – my next talk tackles Winter Blues this coming Tuesday (Jan 17th) at 2pm. Come along for some mood-boosting recipe ideas and a healthy treat to take home!
- New workshop alert! I’m presenting a 30-minute talk at Well4ever Clinic in Putney on 20th January all about Detox Advice. Come along at 11am for tea, healthy snacks, and some great info!
- P.S. to keep up with all of my events as well as to get special recipes not currently featured on this blog, sign up to my monthly newsletter
On Tuesday morning, I woke up with that telltale tickle in the back of my throat, the one that usually means a cold is looming. I felt my energy start to flag, but I knew I still had time to fight back. It’s a crucial moment – the one where you notice the first hint of a symptom – because that’s your body’s way of telling you that something’s wrong. Time to reinforce your immune system.
There are a million and one supplements out there boasting about their effects on our immunity, so how do we know what to do? I’d always say, start with your food, and use supplements second.
This soup is a great start. It has vitamin C, a known antioxidant and immune booster, in the form of the greens. I went with tatsoi here (a cousin of bok choy) but all leafy greens contain C, so go with what you like or have. Tatsoi is also high in vitamin A, another known antioxidant, calcium and iron. The cruciferous veggies (onion, garlic, scallions) give us sulfur, which have greater concentrations of beneficial phytonutrients, supporting detoxification. Garlic – well, you probably already know how powerful garlic is. We use an entire bulb in this recipe, so you’re getting tons of the great antibacterial and antiviral properties garlic naturally holds.
Make this soup on that first day of your symptoms and have a bowl or two for the next few days. Get plenty of rest and drinks lots of water, more than normal, which will allow your body to flush out the bad guys. Drizzle with sesame oil for an extra boost of supportive healthy fats. (By the way, my cold never turned into anything much and I credit this soup and generous mugs of my immunity tea concoction – it really works!)
Super Greens Soup
- 1 whole garlic bulb
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 6-8 scallions, chopped
- 2 zucchini, chopped
- 1 cup frozen fava beans or green peas
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 2 cups greens (spinach, bok choy, tatsoi, kale, dandelion greens, etc)
- handful flatleaf parsley
- juice of 1 lemon
- First, roast the garlic. Heat the oven to 400F, place the whole garlic bulb on a heat-proof dish, and roast for 30 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly while you start the soup.
- In a large pot, heat the oil and add the onion and scallions. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes, then add the zucchini, frozen beans or peas, and squeeze in the roasted garlic pulp. Cook for 5 minutes more.
- Pour in the veg stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to simmer and leave to cook, covered, for 15 minutes.
- Take off the heat and carefully transfer the soup to a blender. Add the greens, parsley, and lemon juice, and blend until smooth. Return to the stove to heat before serving.
I’m starting to notice little baby pumpkins at the farmer’s market, which can only mean one thing: SOUP. If I had to pick one dish to see me through till spring, hands down it’s a hearty pumpkin or winter squash soup. Usually though, if it’s offered at a restaurant, especially in the UK, it will inevitably contain cream. That’s fine – I prefer making my own soup anyway! And while I’ve made my fair share of butternut squash soup before, it’s never been this good. I attribute it to the preparation, which admittedly takes a long time. Make a huge batch when you DO have time and refrigerate or freeze it.
This little orange-red bowl of delight will warm you up in three ways!
Can you think of anything more warming and satisfying on a cold day than roasted vegetables? This recipe takes time due to the fact that all of the main ingredients are roasted first. That smoky, almost sweet flavor comes directly from the oven.
The easiest way to warm up your food, whether roasted for an hour or not, is via the medium of the chili pepper. I like to slice a red chili pepper very thinly, seeds and all, and toss with the rest of the vegetables to make sure the heat of the chili distributes evenly.
Clearly, soup is a warming food. What do you want more than anything when you’re sick? I remember bowls of Campbell’s classic tomato soup with buttered white toast when I was home from school with a cold. That stuff could cure anything. Now I’m not so sure! Canned soups are generally pretty high in sodium and laden with preservatives. Better to stick to homemade, where you can handpick the ingredients, adjust according to your taste, and keep it for months in the freezer! You’ll always have some to heat up as needed, just as simple as opening a can of Campbell’s.
Roasted Pumpkin & Red Pepper Soup
- 2 red peppers, stalks removed
- 2 red onions, cut into 1/8ths
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 red chili, finely sliced
- 1 small pumpkin, seeds removed, chopped into chunks
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 quart vegetable stock
- fresh cilantro leaves to serve
- Heat the oven to 400F / gas mark 6.
- Place the red peppers on a baking tray, season with salt and pepper, and place in the oven to roast for 30 minutes. Rotate the peppers half way through. When finished, leave to cool. Peel off the skins, roughly chop and set aside.
- Meanwhile, place the coconut oil, pumpkin, onions, garlic, red chili, carrots, and some salt and pepper in a roasting pan. Toss to coat and place in the oven. Roast for an hour, tossing and rotating the pan half way through.
- When all the roasted veg is done, spoon everything into a large pot. Turn on the heat, pour in the vegetable stock, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Take off the heat and puree the soup, either with a hand-held blender or transfer to a standalone blender or food processor.
- Serve with a garnish of fresh cilantro leaves.
It’s the last of the cold temperatures so I whipped up one last vegan soup for dinner. Usually, I much prefer a non-blended soup, but this is creamy without being heavy. Plus – no dairy at all. Bonus! This is definitely a keeper – one for the colder months on the other side of our upcoming summer (although, here in London, the temperatures this week have been tropical!)
I loved the addition of fresh parsley and a drizzle of white truffle oil. It just added a kick of flavor that would have been missing otherwise. Try this for dinner alongside some hummus and wholegrain toast. A perfect vegan meal!
Vegan Leek & Potato Soup
Makes 4 servings
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 large leeks, cleaned and sliced (white and light green parts only)
- 800g potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
- 1 pint veg stock
- garnish: fresh parsley leaves, white truffle oil
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion for 5 minutes on a low heat.
- Add the leeks and potatoes and stir fry for 5 minutes.
- Pour in the vegetable stock. Top up with water until the veggies are just covered. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are softened.
- Season well with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and sea salt, then puree using a hand-held blender or transfer (carefully) to a standalone blender.
- Heat the pureed soup through just before serving, transfer to bowls, and add a sprig of fresh parsley and a drizzle of truffle oil (good extra virgin olive oil would be nice too!)